Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Interior minister talks tough on drunk driving

JAIL TIME:Lee Hong-yuan said he believes that putting people behind bars is the most effective way to raise awareness about drunk driving and its consequences

Staff writer, with CNA

Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) has vowed to stamp out the nation’s “drunk driving culture” and said that foreigners living in Taiwan will also not get away with violating strict new laws against drinking and driving that took effect a month ago.

Responding to a question regarding reports of law-breaking foreigners getting a pass from police, Lee said that although many Taiwanese police officers might not be proficient in English, each police jurisdiction has a foreign affairs department.

Any foreigner suspected of drunk driving should be held by police until a foreign affairs officer arrives to deal with the situation, he told International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), the nation’s major English-language radio station, in an interview to be broadcast on Monday and Tuesday.

Lee said he had personally instructed foreign affairs police departments across the nation to “fully support” the new laws aimed at curbing drunk driving.

In the interview, Lee said that a “loophole” in the law whereby a suspect could refuse a breathalyzer test and instead pay a fine of NT$90,000 had been closed, and that the new laws allow police to request permission from a prosecutor to escort a suspect to a hospital for a forced blood test if necessary.

Those found with a breath alcohol content of more than 0.25mg per liter face up to two years behind bars plus fines of up to NT$200,000.

Lee said in the interview that the government would demonstrate its seriousness in curbing drunk driving by emphasizing enforcement.

“I think the most effective way [to reduce drunk driving] is for people to be put in prison and for people to get punished. If one of your friends is punished, you will be [more] aware,” he said.

Drunk driving incidents — and fatal accidents associated with driving while intoxicated — are more severe in central and southern Taiwan, Lee said, adding that the ministry had instructed officials in these regions to double their efforts to stamp out what he termed “a drunk driving culture.”

He said that monthly nationwide crackdowns would continue and he had asked county commissioners and mayors to report on drunk driving rates in their areas.

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